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There are 'many reasons' for universities to use e-learning

There are several reasons why universities are investing in online learning, a specialist has said.

Writing for MediaShift on PBS.org, University of Kansas associate professor of journalism and Budig professor of writing Doug Ward suggested educational institutions are moving quickly to bring "centuries-old models of learning" up to date.

Communication technologies could have led this transition, he suggested, pointing out mobile phones, computers and web access are cheaper than they used to be.

This is offering people the chance to collaborate and learn alongside anyone in the world and is providing simple access to internet materials, the expert added.

Previously, people would have had to purposefully seek out information, but online learning means it "flows relentlessly towards them", he noted.

Furthermore, the price of further education has increased rapidly, with a New York Times analysis showing they have jumped to 559 per cent of costs seen in 1985, while consumer prices have roughly doubled over this timeframe.

Many youngsters have been "priced out of the market", Mr Ward said, although he argued that the falling cost of technology has enabled many students to find e-learning resources online rather than attend campuses.

Rising costs, alongside their resistance to change and mediocre degree completion rates, have put universities and colleges "under increased scrutiny", he declared.

Virtual learning environments are also a convenient way for people to study, the professor remarked.

Hybrid or online learning allows students to work through the course material at a pace that meets their needs and at times and in places of their choosing, while curtailing the length of time people have to "sit passively in large lectures", the expert continued.

Mr Ward noted distance learning online is also beneficial to people who do not wish to move to a campus or are unable to, making "anyone anywhere a potential student".

Students in employment or with families can be helped through e-learning, alongside people in India, China or other countries, he said.

11 September 2012

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